Research ArticleINFECTIOUS DISEASE

The human thymus perivascular space is a functional niche for viral-specific plasma cells

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Science Immunology  23 Dec 2016:
Vol. 1, Issue 6, eaah4447
DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aah4447

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Not in the thymic house

The human thymus is the seat of T cell production, and thymic infection can alter both thymopoiesis and tolerance. Circulating antibodies from bone marrow–resident plasma cells have been shown to help protect the thymus from infection; however, the contribution of thymic-resident B cells has remained unclear. Now, Nuñez et al. report that plasma cells reside in the human thymus and that these plasma cells produce antibodies reactive to common viral proteins. These cells inhabit the thymic perivascular space, located between the thymic epithelial areas and the circulation, and therefore may fortify the thymus against pathogen invasion. These cells are maintained in aging individuals, suggesting that thymic plasma cells play a key role in thymic protection throughout the human life span.